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A Shakespearean return home; culture WATCH.

Felicity Kendal thought she'd said all she wanted about India, where she grew up, but the chance to explore the country's love of Shakespeare changed her mind Q: With your gloriously plummy voice and the best of British on your CV, some may find it surprising to learn that you didn't live in the UK until you were 17.

A: I grew up in India, where my parents ran a touring theatre company, specialising in putting on Shakespeare plays. I wrote all about my rather bohemian upbringing in my autobiography White Cargo: A Memoir, and my first major screen role was in a 1965 Merchant Ivory film Shakespeare-Wallah, based loosely on my family's experience. Apart from that, I've turned down requests to document the experience further.

Q: Like what exactly? A: I've been asked to do documentaries in the past but I just didn't see the point in it. I wasn't interested in going somewhere and saying, 'Look what a beautiful building this is!' because I'm not trained as a presenter. But then the BBC approached me, asking if I'd be interested in making a film about India's current interest in Shakespeare, to tie in with their Shakespeare Unlocked season. I thought it was a fabulous idea to see if Shakespeare was still alive and around in India. It wasn't about me - it would be about Shakespeare and I would front it.

Q: Did it turn into a film about your family though, just a little bit? A: Once out there, it was nearly impossible to avoid talking about my family! I visited the places my parents toured with their company Shakesperiana, talked to old family friends about the company's influence on their love of the 17th century playwright and interviewed my niece and nephew, who continue with our family's work in India. So yes, it did become a little bit more about the family, but that happened organically rather than on purpose. Q: Do people still remember your father out there? A: Yes, and I think his great passion for Shakespeare has had a lasting effect on the people who grew up watching the shows they put on. I discovered that he is remembered with some love and respect, and that he did influence quite a few artists that perform Shakespeare in various ways today. He is directly responsible for their interest in Shakespeare. The Bard and his stories are very much perceptible in the country's culture - from dance to Bollywood films. He's been pillaged all over the world for films and things - damn good stories is why.

Q: Did your own theatrical education come from your parents? A: I was an integral part of their company. In fact I made my stage debut aged just nine months in a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the film, I was lucky enough to go back to that theatre. I think that Shakespeare is the building blocks of any classical work as an actress. Playing Shakespeare is part of your training and your craft and something that I think, if you're hoping to have a career as an actor, you should have experienced. I was very lucky to have had that grounding forced upon me instead of having to get into a company where I could hopefully play one part.

Q: Over here, it's the sitcom The Good Life with which you're most frequently associated. Why do you think it's still so popular? A: With climate change and a double-dipping economy, some people say it has even more resonance than it had back then - but I think they keep showing it simply because it's there and people laugh and it's cheap to show! [bar] Felicity Kendal's Indian Shakespeare Quest is on BBC Two, Wednesday, 9pm [bar] Until she was 20, Felicity had no fixed address [bar] She's got terrible eyesight, suffering from both long and short-sightedness [bar] Her London stage debut was in 1967's Minor Murder [bar] She converted to Judaism at the time of her second marriage [bar] The actress was made a CBE in 1995 [bar] Her other awards include Rear of the Year (1981) [bar] She posed naked for Esquire magazine aged 50 and is immensely proud of the pictures [bar] When she turned 63 she decided she would get her first ever tattoo. In case you're wondering, it's on her foot

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Felicity Kendal lived and acted in India until she was 17
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 12, 2012
Words:739
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